Letters could bring federal money for lake enhancement

Warren Kreutziger would like to see the same Marion County citizens who either supported or struggled against casino gambling last year show the same kind of energy in writing to Sen. Pat Roberts about expanding Cottonwood Point at Marion Reservoir.

If they would just do that, he said, this county would end up with a project of more guaranteed positive economic impact here in a shorter time than compared to almost any other project that could be done.

Kreutziger said the county could have a $5 million project done, or parts of it, with no more property tax and no more sales tax locally. It would come from federal dollars, money collected across the entire United States with no more effect on local money than if a penny had been thrown into the Atlantic Ocean.

No doubt Kreutziger will benefit more, too, because he owns Canada Bait & Tackle, a business with direct ties to the reservoir.

But Kreutziger said he would counter that his business and his volunteer work on the Marion Lake Association, a group that promotes the reservoir, gives him the perspective to see how everybody here would benefit.

Kreutziger said larger collections of sales tax from tourists to an enhanced Cottonwood Point would spread benefits and savings across the county, from persons who collected income directly to persons who don?t want property taxes going up.

It?s a win-win situation no matter what side of the casino issue or any other interest you support is concerned, Kreutziger said.

Plus, he said activities at the reservoir, such as camping, boating, fishing and swimming, are family friendly things that people support, or at least find desirable as interests that don?t interfere with their own lives.

The basic resource also is here, and already generating money, Kreutziger said.

?We don?t have to find something to be brought in,? he said.

Kreutziger also said Marion County needs to do something to get a stronger share of the tourist dollars that already flow through the state. He cited a 2004 tourism study from the Kansas Department of Commerce that showed Marion County at the bottom of revenues compared to neighboring counties at $8.4 million in tourism revenue.

Chase County had $14 million, Harvey County $18.9 million, Dickinson County $28.6 million and Butler County $60.2 million.

Kreutziger said, ?Over the last five years, Cottonwood Point has been full, or just about full, every weekend during camping season. People were still calling the (U.S. Army) Corps of Engineers here for more reservations.

?The Corps of Engineers managing federal reservoirs for the Tulsa District runs from here on the north end to the Texas line,? he said. ?A Corps study showed that Cottonwood Point was the highest demand area in the Tulsa District.

?There are bigger parks with more campers in them, but on a percentage of occupancy and demand this was the highest.

?That?s why this was planned for expansion. But the Corps has no money for it now. They aren?t allowed to ask Congress for the money or to lobby on their own behalf. The money has to come from Congressional adds that the citizens ask for.

?Pat Roberts is our senator, and he?s the man to ask for federal adds. Each letter he receives counts as a point on behalf of a project. So, don?t just sign a letter from a group to him thinking you?ve done what you could.

?A letter from just you counts a point just like the other. A letter from a husband and wife counts as one point, but a single letter from each of them counts as a point each, two points.

Kreutziger said the county commission agreed to send a letter of support to Roberts as have State Rep. Don Dahl and State Sen. Jim Barnett.

?A letter to any of our congressmen might help, but Roberts is the main man,? Kreut?ziger said.

Terry Holt, Corps of Engineers manager at Marion Reservoir, confirmed Kreut?ziger?s point that the plans for upgrading Cottonwood Point are ?on the shelf.? He said they have been since the Corps responded to public demand for an expansion by creating the plans in 2000-01.

Holt said 90 percent of the engineering and planning for an expansion is done, and would only require funding with a ?congressional add,? which the Corps is forbidden to ask or campaign for.

Holt said it is true that segments of the plan could be done as they are funded. That has already happened with the addition of some campsites and restrooms added.

Holt said when the planning was first done, it was funded through a federal program known as RAMPS. But the program has been discontinued, leaving only the congressional adds.

Holt said funding even a portion of the plan probably would add more campsites, showers and restrooms as well utilities such as electricity, water and sewer.

Kreutziger said his figures show the campsites would be increased by 100 over the 170 currently in use. He estimated an average of three persons uses each campsite every weekend.

?Think of what 300 more people here on a weekend would do for the economy,? he said. ?There?s no way anybody could get that much value and good added into the county now, especially without the county doing it. We?ve got the facility, why not use it to the best??

Figures provided by Kreut?ziger show two projects on the east side of Cottonwood Point at $1,488,731 and $743,169; three on the south and southwest at $364,348, $503,014 and $1,133,679; and three on the north and northwest at $1,152,866, $407,976, and $235,198 to total the $5 million.

Kreutziger said one reason for the increased demand for campsites with improved utilities and near-guaranteed use is the big upswing in the use of motor homes.

Kreutziger believes his estimates of economic impact are below what they really would be because motor home campers stay longer in one place at a time and spend more local dollars.

?We?ve been dropping the ball here,? Kreutziger said. ?There?s no place else we can get this much good done for us here without spending local money.?

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